Operation tools with dielectric elastomer pressure sensors
New sensors based on dielectric elastomers have recently been shown to exhibit high sensitivity for compression loads. The basic design of these sensors exhibits two profiled surfaces coated with electrode layers between which an elastomer film with the counter-electrode is confined. All components of the sensor are prepared with silicone whose stiffness can be varied in a wide range. Depending on the details of the sensor design, various effects contribute to the enhancement of the capacitance. The intermediate elastomer film is stretched upon compression, the elastomer profiles are deformed and the electrode layers on the elastomer profiles and in the elastomer film approach each other. Beside the detection of pressure, such sensors can also be used for operation tools in human-machine interfaces. To demonstrate this potential, a touch pad with six pressure-sensitive fields is presented. The corresponding sensors integrated in the touch fields detect the exerted forces of the finger, show them on a display and control the brightness of some LEDs. As a second example, the integration of sensor-based control fields on an automotive steering wheel is shown. Finally, the sensors can also be used in fabrics to control arbitrary functions of wearable electronic devices.